Shoreworld: Souper Groove Festival Returns This Weekend; Seaside Heights Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Souper Groove Music And Camping Festival Returns To Freehold On Sept. 27

When Turtle Soup member Jeff Mahajan first started tossing his idea for a grassroots festival around, I’m sure folks rolled their eyes at him. I mean, here’s one of those zany musicians who thinks that they can change the system, and do a better job than the promoters. But after unveiling a simple and effective formula that knocked the promoter community (yes, there is such a bizarre thing) on its ear, Jeff and his “Souper Crew” are getting ready to continue that success, launching phase two of their psychedelic scene, and this time everyone is watching.

After last year’s numbers topped in the 1,000-plus area, and real estate for camping area sold out (even with the rain), Mahajan has been fine-tuning his brand, working out the details on a smart combo ticket and adding some exciting performers to the show.

Souper Groove is not without its self-indulgences, however. Born out of a rebellious necessity from a band tired of existing underneath the thumb of a generic promoter, Souper Groove served as an attention-getting platform for Mahajan’s band, Turtle Soup. But as that goal began to evolve, Mahajan moved along with it, turning a lone wolf campaign into a community event and opening up a whole new scenario that shows no signs of being beaten in the “Quest For NJ Festivals” this year. After watching the dismal results of this summer’s offerings (with the exception of the New Heights Festival in Seaside), Souper Groove looks to possess the goods that will leave other events far back in the dust.

The event takes place this weekend (Sept. 27-28) on the grounds of the Priedaine Latvian American Cultural Center in Freehold, NJ. The Latvian Society has been true friends of the festival, graciously offering their pristine properties and facilities for use. Mahajan says of the space and the organization, “It’s a jewel of a place. The grounds and facilities are wonderfully maintained. Plus, they were so supportive about the idea of hosting a music festival there.”

Souper Groove Music And Camping Festival will host over 40 of the area’s top blues, jam, rock, bluegrass, funk, reggae and acoustic-based artists from all over New Jersey. And while music is the main attraction, the festival will also have great activities such as glow-in-the-dark dodge ball, pie-a-clown (I’ll be doing that all day), sunrise and moonrise yoga sessions, a children’s tent (bring those rug rats) and several installations from local artists. Each festival day will also feature a topic where you are encouraged to accessorize, with Friday being an “Animals” theme and Saturday being an “Out To Sea” menagerie, so, as the event coordinators says, dress accordingly. Various food and craft vendors will be on site for your shopping and dining pleasures.

But back to the main focus, the list of performers is a veritable “who’s who” of the Jersey scene. And while Turtle Soup will be headlining with two different sets over the weekend, other performers will be taking their big shot during this “Woodstock meets Bonnaroo”-style gathering. Matt O’Ree, winner of Guitar Center’s national “King Of The Blues” competition, will be burning up the stage, as will Quincy Mumford and crew. Mumford recently played the main stage at Gathering Of The Vibes. Jam legend Mark Diomede leads both Alligator and his longtime band Juggling Suns, and Tony Tedesco & Full Fathom 5 (a fast-rising contender on the scene) will have the early morning pleasure of waking up slumbering campers with their brand of hillbilly bluegrass.

But this is also a celebration for Turtle Soup’s brand new CD, Seconds. The album was recorded at Brooksound Productions in Tinton Falls, NJ. Turtle Soup tells me that their CD, Seconds, is the first fully solar-powered album on the East Coast. I bet no one thought of that one before! After their last CD pushed them to new heights that included a slot on a Warner Bros. Compilation, a Microsoft ad, a movie trailer and an e-book, Seconds looks to have the substance and intrigue to put Turtle Soup in first place.

This is a band that has had its ups and downs, but lately, things have started to straighten out, seeing a revamped Turtle Soup on stage with luminaries such as the Jerry Garcia Band, moe., Papadosio, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Gov’t Mule and so many more. Turtle Soup grew up on the festival circuit and know the ropes. Mahajan says in his press release, “We’ve toured around the Northeast for years, playing festivals that have grown before our eyes; we’ve seen firsthand how some festivals have changed the scene and their community for the better and were glad that Souper Groove is doing that to our scene in New Jersey and beyond.”

Festival tickets are going fast, so head over and get yours now. Souper Groove Music And Camping Festival tickets are $45 in advance or $60 day of the show for a full weekend pass. The ticket price includes camping, parking, music and activities, and you can find out additional details on their website.


Ravaged With Fire, Seaside Heights Rises Up To Celebrate Its 100th Anniversary With New Heights Festival Crowds

It’s Friday, and I’m staring at an out-of-control fire on the Seaside boardwalk. This was to be the first day of the New Heights Festival at the north end of town. As I communicated with the festival coordinators, we had that feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We knew there was a great chance that the festival was in severe jeopardy of not happening. But thanks to our community of firefighters, police, paramedic, town coordinators and others who took immediate action, the fire was brought under control in record time.

And just as when Hurricane Sandy slammed into this coastal town, the next day people were right back to the business of putting Seaside back in order. This weekend was even more special, as Seaside visitors and residents were also celebrating the town’s 100th anniversary. Not only did the festival go ahead and open on Saturday, but there were record crowds coming to support the town and the tough position it was left in.

The band stage on the beach celebrated great music all day. Bands such as Lower The Veil, Des And The Swagmatics, P-Dub and Badfish took the beach stage by storm, gathering thousands on the sand for a show of solidarity against the effects of a fire that took nearly half of the boardwalk in the blink of an eye.

Sunday was right back to business, as vendors for the festival were lined up and interacting with a brand new crowd and a brand new theme. The folks at Helping Hands Of New Jersey were on the boardwalk, recruiting and educating folks affected by Sandy. Monster trucks roamed the beach as surfers took free lessons from the best in the business.

The New Heights Festival almost didn’t happen. The fire took quite a toll on New Jersey’s premier beach town, but as with Hurricane Sandy, you can’t keep this place down. It’s a tough little city by the sea that’s weathered scenarios that have killed other towns. Thanks to the residents and the first responders, Seaside Heights continues to survive both here and in the hearts of people all over the country.

We wish everyone who was affected by this recent tragedy a speedy recovery and a great next year. After a tough season for everyone, the New Heights Festival was a successful and a welcome symbol of good people and better times here on the shore.